4 Tips for Drowning Prevention

With summer just on the horizon, families are looking up pool schedules and filling their backyards with kiddie pools, water tables, and sprinklers to run through.

But here’s a startling fact: Children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. One INCH! That means, any standing water can be dangerous for infants and toddlers when left unsupervised. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-4.

So how can families prevent drowning and other water-related accidents? Here are 4 tips to follow to keep your children safe during the water recreation season.

Always supervise

  • Around any body of water, including bathtubs and small kiddie pools, children require constant supervision. Children under a year should have your hands on them, or be within grabbing distance.
  • When your child will be in water have everything you need with you before they get in the water, including a towel, change of clothes, snack, water, and sunscreen. Drowning can happen in a matter of seconds—even a quick dash in the house for a towel puts your child at risk.
  • Designate a “Water Watcher.” When you’re out with family or friends, it’s easy to assume that someone—Grandma? Dad? Uncle Charlie?—has their eyes on the children. However, the more adults present doesn’t always equal better supervision. Before heading to the pool or lake, designate a person to stay with the kids while they play in or near the water. Rotate out the job, just like lifeguards do.

Know the signs of drowning

Film and television depict drowning victims violently splashing around with their arms flailing, yelling for help. But this is a false depiction. When a person slips under water, their mouths fill with water and they can’t scream for “help!” Drowning is silent and quick. Here are more signs to looks for:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes closed or looking glassy and empty
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Swimming as if climbing an invisible ladder

Make your home water-safe

It’s also important to be mindful of drowning during non-swim times. Accidents can happen at the home around buckets of water, ponds, or even the toilet.

  • Consider putting a 4-sided gate around any body of water in your yard, including a pool or pond.
  • Purchase a toilet latch to keep the toilet lid secured, or keep the bathroom door closed.
  • Always empty buckets of water and bathwater right away when not in use. (This also reduces breeding mosquitoes!)

Teach water safety

Talk to your kids about water safety and establish some rules to follow when at the pool or even playing at home. This could include:

  • “Never swim alone.”
  • “Know where a lifeguard is.”
  • “Always have a grownup with you when you are near water.”
  • “Walk, don’t run while at the swimming pool.”
  • “Tell a grownup when you are going to play in the backyard.”
  • Additionally, as a parent, consider taking a CPR class as well as swim lessons to boost your own confidence in the water. Oregon CPR and The CPR Center offer classes frequently throughout the month.

While swim lessons—starting about the age of 1—including learning survival skills such as rolling from front to back and floating—are proven to reduce the risk of drowning rates, it’s important not to rely on lessons alone to ensure your child’s safety in the water. Stay alert and attentive so the family can have a safe and fun summer in the water!

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).